what in the World?

 Contents: UU World Back Issue

Slavery, voting, diversity, and other matters

Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussion.

by Jane Greer

Citizenship’s cost. Teresa Hommel addresses Americans’ failure to take the responsibilities of citizenship seriously. “If ordinary people don’t get involved in the day-to-day business of our government, if we don’t learn the issues in depth . . . our democracy will not survive.” (“Don’t hand over democracy to computers”)

How would you evaluate Hommel’s position? If you agree with her, what steps would need to be taken to revitalize American democracy? In looking over America’s history of participatory government, how would you describe its current phase? How is it different from earlier phases?

Theological diversity. Donald E. Skinner writes about the Commission on Appraisal’s upcoming report on theological diversity in Unitarian Universalism. (“Searching for unity in theological diversity”)

How would you describe your congregation’s theological orientation? If there are diverse theological outlooks, how does your congregation manage this diversity? What theological issues draw people together despite their differences?

True to stereotype. Peg Duthie is critical of the need to categorize people, whether by ethnicity or religion. “The words ‘Unitarian’ and ‘Universalist’ are no more adequate than ‘Asian’ and ‘American’ when it comes to describing you, me, each other, or our ancestors. At best, the words are hints; they are not definitions.” (“Was Thomas Jefferson really one of us?”)
Why do people need to categorize others? Can categorizing others serve a useful purpose? What are its dangers? Have you felt yourself stereotyped by others?

Slavery revealed. In her cover story on modern-day slavery, Kimberly French writes, “The truth is that slavery exists in virtually every country of the world and in almost every U.S. state, according to human rights organizations, scholars, government agencies, and journalists.” (“Bitter Harvest”)

Were you surprised to learn that slavery still exists and is so widespread? How do slavery’s modern forms compare to your own images of slavery? Why has this issue not received greater publicity?

Consumer ethics. In “Boycotts Don’t Always Help—But You Can,” French advises readers to be cautious when they come across really inexpensive products because they may have been made with slave labor.

If an extremely low price puts a previously unaffordable item within your financial reach, would you go ahead and buy it? How would you justify your decision?

Exiting life. Poet Ric Masten, who has incurable prostate cancer, is profiled by Frances Cerra Whittelsey. In one of his poems he talks about how much better it is to see death coming rather than be taken by surprise. In fact, Masten tells her, “his life ‘really began’ when his oncologist promised him a ‘graceful end.’” (“Dancing through Life”)

In contemplating your own death, which of the two options would you prefer? Why?

Common enemy. Entomologist Jeffrey Lockwood attends meetings in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and finds that locusts, which threaten crops in neighboring countries that distrust each other, draw people together. “In a world so full of tension, unrest, and misunderstanding, the grasshoppers and locusts have provided a desperately needed element. These insects have served as our ‘common enemy.’” (Unlikely Ambassador)

Since most of us will never attend meetings in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, is there an issue closer to home you think could draw people together? Think of people with whom you or your congregation might want to form a closer relationship. What common problems do you have that might bring you together?

New journalism. William F. Woo reviews We the Media by Dan Gillmor, a journalist who believes that new technologies are eroding the boundaries between the producers and consumers of news, creating a new category of “citizen journalist.” (“The free press and free people”)

What advantages and disadvantages are there to the unregulated presence of citizen journalists? Among these citizen journalists, how do you decide whom you can trust?

Jane Greer is the managing editor of UU World. To receive an advance copy of this column by e-mail, sign up at www.uua.org/mailman/listinfo/uuworld.

 Contents: UU World Back Issue
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